06/22/2005 12:00AM

Sam Houston opens with trials


The 38-date summer Quarter Horse season at Sam Houston Race Park begins Friday night with the trials to the Grade 3 Bayer Legend Texas Derby Challenge and the Grade 3 John Deere Texas Challenge.

Trials were scheduled for the MBNA America Texas Challenge for older horses, but when only 12 horses entered the trials, it was decided to cancel the trials and allow all 12 horses to run in the finals on July 9. SLM Snowman will head the finals when he returns to the scene of his 1 3/4-length victory in the Grade 1, $300,000 MBNA America Challenge Championship on Nov. 6.

In the Bayer Legend Texas Derby Challenge trials for 3-year-olds, the Ruidoso Futurity winner, All About Ease, will make her Sam Houston debut - and her first start in six months - in the third of three trials. She will meet the Longhorn Derby winner, Kathys Star Quest, who raced in the Retama Park Derby last Saturday night.

In the John Deere Challenge for females, Sixes Miss Perry looks for her first victory in more than a year, her last being the Grade 3 Texas Distaff Challenge.

The Sam Houston season runs until Sept. 11 with a Friday-through-Sunday weekly schedule. First post time is 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, and Sunday afternoon cards start at 1:30 p.m.

A total of 30 stakes - with total purses of more than $1 million - will be offered, including the Grade 1 Sam Houston Futurity (Sept. 10), the Grade 2 Sam Houston Derby (Sept. 10), and the four-stakes Texas Summer Showdown for Texas-breds (July 29). The leading stakes trainers pointing for these races include Janet VanBebber, Heath Taylor, John Buchanan, and Toby Keeton.

Excluding fees paid by horsemen in stakes nominating and sustaining fees, the average daily purse distribution will be $50,000, according Sam Houston's racing secretary, Eric Johnston.